Pinellas school board narrowly approves new online charter
After a lengthy discussion Tuesday morning, the Pinellas County School Board approved an application for a new online charter school. Board members voted 4-3 in favor of it. Board members Linda Lerner, Robin Wikle and Janet Clark voted against it.
Florida Virtual Academy at Pinellas County would be managed by Virginia-based K12 Inc., a national company that is under investigation by the Florida Department of Education for using uncertified teachers. A governing board would be ultimately responsible for the school. (See our story here.)
Most board members expressed qualms about the proposed charter. But the majority of the board said they would rather move forward with the application and work to improve the actual charter than vote no and get overturned on appeal. (The application is just the first step to getting a charter agreement. Board members will have another chance to vote on the charter.) Dot Clark, who reviews charters for the district, said K12 appealed and won in five cases last year.
"We need to be part of the conversation," said Board member Carol Cook.
But other board members said it wasn't a good idea to approve a flawed charter application because of fear of an appeal. Board member Linda Lerner, who said she had substantial concerns about the application, told the board that it was "time to take a stand."
Superintendent Mike Grego told board members that staff wouldn't bring back a flawed charter agreement.
"As far as us as a district compromising, there would be no compromise," he said.